UPDATE: This story was updated Friday, March 24, with the latest information on the disruption at Ben E. Keith.
An apparent cyberattack at a large foodservice distributor halted deliveries to restaurants across a big chunk of the U.S. over the weekend.
Fort Worth, Texas-based Ben E. Keith Co. on Monday posted a statement to its website saying it had detected “unusual activity” in its network. “In response, we proactively disabled business systems to minimize risk for our business and our customers,” it wrote.
By Friday, it said it had made "considerable progress" restoring its business and was making deliveries to most customers.
The statement suggests the company was hacked, although it wouldn’t confirm that. When Restaurant Business asked for more details, SVP David Werner only reiterated the company’s original statement.
The widespread disruption led to product shortages and even closures at restaurants of all kinds. Ben E. Keith covers a 14-state area extending from Nebraska to the country’s southern border and stretching from New Mexico as far east as Georgia.
Olde Orchard Restaurant in Yukon, Okla., said last Thursday that it hadn’t received shipments for two days and would have to close Friday as a result.
“We may get product that we are having to pick up ourselves at their warehouse late tomorrow afternoon,” owner Amy Franklin wrote on Facebook. “We will be using Friday evening to prepare and prep for the weekend.”
Chains including Raising Cane’s, Sonic Drive-In and Cava were also affected, according to local media reports, resulting in out of stocks and closures.
But the situation seemed to have improved by mid-week. Cane’s, the 600-unit chicken finger chain, said Wednesday it was receiving shipments again and back in business in the affected areas.
“While Raising Cane’s was impacted this weekend—primarily having to operate with a limited menu vs. a full closure—any impacted restaurants are all back open and we are glad to continue serving our Caniacs,” a spokesperson said in an email.
Sonic and Cava had not responded to questions as of publication time.
Cyberattacks have become increasingly common as businesses rely more on technology. In 2021, ransomware attacks, in which hackers essentially hold a company's systems hostage, rose by 92.7% year over year, according to a report by the NCC Group.
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